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Dan Levy
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Dan Levy

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Drugs Are Drugs

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When Shawne Merriman of the San Diego Chargers was suspended for one quarter of the 2006 season, yet was named to the Pro Bowl and nearly named NFL Defensive Player of the Year, it was clear that those inside the game do not care about the use of performance enhancing drugs.

Was it cheating? Yes, and the NFL suspended him. Ironic, then, with all the talk swirling around Michael Vick being conditionally reinstated after serving a prison term for the last two years, we're discussing how just three years ago the NFL was so willing to allow Merriman back into the league with open, award-winning arms after doing his time. I understand the gravity of each transgression is not entirely equatable, but one guy cheated the game, missed 25-percent of the season, and still nearly won the award for the best defensive player in the league that same year. Vick was conditionally reinstated as a PR maneuver for the League to look good. In football, unlike in baseball, a high-profile drug bust doesn't have the same PR ramifications.

See, this wouldn't happen in baseball, especially not to a player in the same season he was suspended. Even if Manny Ramirez goes on a tear in the last 80 games and finishes this season batting .350 with 35 home runs and 115 RBI for a first-place team, there is no way baseball people will vote for him. He's a cheater.

It seems cheating is different in football. Which is fine. Most will agree that baseball takes itself a little too seriously when it comes to history and records and playing the game the way it's supposed to been played, both on and off the field.

Football's never really been like that. Isn't the Pro Football Hall of Fame voting committee specifically asked to look at a player's career on the field, and not take into consideration any transgressions or character issues off the field when deciding someone's candidacy?

I know what you're saying, PEDs are an 'on the field' problem. Sure, taking PEDs helps performance on the field. But so can cocaine. And with PEDs, from what we know, you still have to lift and train and do the work to get bigger and stronger faster than the other players. With cocaine, or amphetamines, you'd get an immediate boost of energy to take players' heads off. Shoot, with enough uppers in his system a guy coming out of the stands could beat the kickoff team down the field and bust through the wedge by himself.

In 1999, the NFL inducted Lawrence Taylor into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Taylor was a noted cocaine abuser and was suspended for 30 days in 1988 for failing a drug test.

In 2007, the NFL inducted Michael Irvin into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Read Jeff Pearlman's book to learn about all the transgressions Irvin was a part of in his career, most notably the bust of his 30th birthday party, in 1996, where he pleaded no contest to felony cocaine possession.

And don't think those are the only two.

When you talk about drugs in sports -- especially performance-enhancing drugs -- people often fall back on the 'nobody cares' position, figuring everyone is using something. While I agree that everyone is on something -- only a handful of chemists can tell us the chemical difference between what's put into your GNC-purchased 'protein' powder and what you can buy on the street or get with a fake prescription -- I'm not in the group that doesn't care. I want to know who is on drugs and I do think it will change my opinion of them as a player. That doesn't mean they shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame. These halls are living museums. Drugs are a part of the game, and this era should be documented for future generations to learn from.

For the NFL, the system is in place to let drug users into the Hall. If the NFL has let in players who have been suspended and arrested -- not just suspected -- for recreational drug use use that, if administered at the right time, could clearly and immediately enhance performance on the field, letting a guy in for popping some pills or shooting a needle full of HgH isn't a fair distinction to make.

If their skills on the field merit induction to the Hall of Fame, they should get in. The whole story, not just the glorification of their success on the field, should go on their plaque.

By Dan Levy  |  July 31, 2009; 8:19 AM ET  | Category:  Dan Levy , Michael Vick , Roger Goodell , Steroids Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Should a Positive PED Test Preclude Hall of Fame Entry? | Next: Perception is Reality

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In my opinion, anyone who uses ANY type of performance enhancing drug should be banned from professional sports for life and have any kudos they have been awarded nullified. These guys are suppose to be role models for our kids, for gods sakes! Next it will be OK if my child uses drugs because his pro-football role model did it!!! Silly right???

Posted by: subeng241 | August 2, 2009 12:38 PM

Now I don't usually include ANY comments about race when discussing a subject such as this, but have you noticed that about 98% of players using PEDs are non-white. Maybe they feel they need these drugs to compete with other players who are naturally better players!! Or maybe they have to see their names in record books. Or it's the only way for them to get the stupidly high salaries.
Perhaps if all players were were paid at 1970 levels the cheating would stop!!!!!!!!

Posted by: subeng241 | August 2, 2009 12:50 PM

Yo, Subeng241: Grow up. This ain't your usual jr.-high audience.

Posted by: marc85 | August 2, 2009 1:08 PM

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